The Friends of the Wildflower Garden, Inc.

Trees & Shrubs of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

The oldest public wildflower garden in the United States


Common Name
Northern Bush Honeysuckle (Dwarf Bush Honeysuckle, Yellow-flowered Bush Honeysuckle)


Scientific Name
Diervilla lonicera Mill.


Plant Family
Bush Honeysuckle (Diervillaceae)

Garden Location


Prime Season
Late Spring to Late Summer



Northern Bush Honeysuckle is small native perennial deciduous shrub that is not a true honeysuckle. It grows from 1 to 3 feet high and up to 4 feet wide, on densely branched slender stems that are greenish-red as twigs, then turning light brown. Older thicker stems have a bark that is gray to light-reddish brown that becomes shreddy. Twig buds are very small. Branches run close to the ground and slightly ascend.

Leaves are opposite, oblong with pointed tip and with fine teeth and have attractive fall color. The upper surface is green and smooth, the underside paler. Some plants may have leaves that take on a bronze color, particularly near the tips.

The inflorescence is a small panicle of stalked flowers, usually in threes, from either the leaf axils or at the end of a branch.

Flowers are trumpet shape with a 3/4 inch long by 1/2 inch wide yellow corolla, with five stamens, a single pistil and a style that has a knob-like tip; the bases of the stamens are hairy. Stamens and style are well exerted from the corolla throat. The tips of the five petals of the corolla spread outward and reflex. One of the petals has a distinct deeper yellow marking. Flowers can also be reddish in color on the same plant with the yellow flowers. The ovary is 2-loculed; the calyx tube is very narrow and cylindric with 5 lobes that are cleft almost to the base of the calyx. The flowers are self-sterile and must have an adjacent plant for fruit production.

Fruit: Fertile flowers produce a dry woody vase shaped capsule with the remnants of the long style and the filaments at the tip. The capsule splits open to release its seed. Seeds need 90 days of cold stratification for germination and they also need light. As they are very small they should be surface sown.


Habitat: The plant can make a good ground cover due to its suckering habit, which precludes if from being a landscape specimen, but unlike honeysuckles that are in the genus Lonicera, it is not considered invasive. It grows best in cooler regions that have mesic to dry upland sites but can adapt to sandy or gravelly soil. It is tolerant of various light levels. It grows from a rhizomatous root system which causes it to spread. Suckers may be transplanted to start new plants. The species is the larval host for the Fawn Sphinx Moth (Sphinx kalmiae).

Names: The genus name, Diervilla, is an honorary for N. Dierville, a French 17th Century doctor who is said to have introduced the species to Europe after finding the plant in Canada. The species name, lonicera, is also an honorary and refers to Adam Lonitzer (1528-1586), a German herbalist and the name is also used as the genus name for the true honeysuckles. Botanists have debated for years whether certain species of the subfamily Diervilleae should be in the Honeysuckle family (the Caprifoliaceae). Recently 16 species have been separated into the new family Diervillaceae. (See Taxon 47, Aug. 1998). The author name for the plant description - ‘Mill.’ refers to Philip Miller, Scottish botanist (1691-1771) who was chief gardener at the Chelsea Physic Garden and wrote "The Gardener's Dictionary” which ran through 8 editions. He was considered “the accurate Miller,” the most famous gardener and nurseryman of the day. The book spread the idea of gardening among the middle class who could now enjoy what was formerly the province of the wealthy. His prime source for North American plants was John Bartram.

See bottom of page for notes on the Garden's planting history, distribution in Minnesota and North America, lore and other references.

Northern bush honeysuckle flower Northern Bush Honeysuckle leaf

Above: 1st photo - Details of the small flowers which occur in groups of up to three at the end of new growth branches; 2nd photo - the leaves which are opposite and have a finely toothed edge.

Northern Bush Honeysuckle Northern bush honeysuckle flower

Above & Below - Flower Details: Flowers have five stamens and a single pistil and style that has a knob-like tip; the bases of the stamens are hairy. The tips of the five petals of the corolla spread outward and reflex. One of the petals has a distinct deeper yellow marking. the calyx tube is very small with 5 deeply cleft lobes (sepals).

Bush honeysuckle flower Bush Honeysuckle flower

Below: While the flowers are usually yellow, a reddish color flower can appear on the same plant as shown on the example below from the Upland Garden on 7/06/2011.

Bush Honeysuckle with red flower

Below: Grouping of plants. Photo ©Gary Fewless, University of Wisconsin.

plant group

Below: Drawing from Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York.



Notes: Eloise Butler first recorded introducing Northern Bush Honeysuckle to the Garden on Sept. 4, 1909 with plants obtained from Appleton ME during her summer visit to that local. On May 8, 1910 she planted two additional plants secured from Osceola, WI and again on July 30, 1911 more plants were obtained from a local source. Three more from the Park Board Nursery on Oct. 28, 1914, others in 1921. They were present in the Garden in a census taken in 1926. This plant was also listed on Martha Crone's 1951 inventory of plants in the Garden at that time. It was planted near the Shelter in 2016. Most plants are in the Upland Garden. It is native to counties in Minnesota that are in the eastern 2/3 rds of the state north of the metro area, and south of the metro it is found in the SE Counties. It is the only species of Diervilla found in Minnesota.

In North America it is found from North Dakota and Minnesota eastward to the coast and south as far as the Ohio Valley and then a few other southern states near the coast. In Canada it is found from Saskatchewan eastward.

References and site links

References: Plant characteristics are generally from sources 1A, 32, W2, W3, W7 & W8 plus others as specifically applied. Distribution principally from W1, W2 and 28C. Planting history generally from 1, 4 & 4a. Other sources by specific reference. See Reference List for details.

graphicIdentification booklet for most of the flowering forbs and small flowering shrubs of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. Details Here.